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The Oval
[ ground guide ]

The Oval

The Oval, London's second Test ground, was the first venue to host Test cricket in England. The match, in 1880, saw a W.G. Grace century and a comfortable England victory. It is a place full of history. Indeed, the match which spawned the Ashes, England's 1882 loss to Australia which prompted the famous obituary in The Sporting Times, was played at The Oval. The south London ground is vibrant, often blessed with good weather (traditionally, the Oval Test is in late August) and boasts the quickest pitch in the country. The Oval was first used for cricket in 1844, and Surrey first played there in 1846, losing to MCC and beating Kent.

Cricket and statistics will forever be intertwined, and the Oval boasts more than its fair share of records. In 1938, Len Hutton hit 364 - then the highest Test score - as England racked up 903 against Australia. Four years earlier Don Bradman and the wonderfully talented - though obviously overshadowed - Bill Ponsford both hit double centuries. In 1930, on Bradman's first Ashes tour, he scored 232 at the Oval. Ironically, the same ground saw Bradman dismissed for nought by Eric Hollies, denying the four runs he needed for a Test average of 100.

The Oval was also the traditional English home for Caribbean support, and crowds flocked to see West Indies' demolition jobs in the 1970s and 1980s. Viv Richards scored 291 there at the end of the 1976 season, one of England's hottest summers. England went some way to redressing the balance in 2000, as hospitality boxes were thrown open to the public and a capacity crowd saw England win the series 3-1.

The stands at the Oval are named after the great and the good of Surrey cricket. The Laker and Lock Stands occupy an area beside the pavilion, while Jack Hobbs, Alf Gover, Percy Fender and Ken Barrington are also represented. The Fender Stand is an excellent place to watch cricket from, while the expanses of the Peter May Stand and the Surridge Stand are cheaper for international matches. An excellent initiative allows Under 17s into the Oval for free to watch County Championship and National League games.

All the usual catering facilities are provided, from the ubiquitous burgers to formal dining. There is, of course, an area reserved for members, but there is less of the stuffiness which many believe - perhaps unfairly - blights Lord's. The club boasts a shop for all manner of merchandise. Applications can be made by post for Test matches and ODIs but, as with all international cricket in England, plan well ahead.

Regeneration plans are afoot, after Lambeth Council approved plans to increase the capacity to 23,500. Money raising ideas and events have already begun, and work will start within the next two years.

How to get there:

The Oval is situated in working-class south London, and a glance at the London A to Z should be enough to convince you that public transport is the best option. For those intent on driving, the ground is on Vauxhall Road, in the suburb of Kennington. From central London, cross over the Thames and head to Kennington. There is no realistic parking in the ground and street parking is unsurprisingly difficult.

Getting to London using public transport is less of a hassle than some would have you believe. Certainly, the trains aren't a paragon of reliability, but they aren't as dirty, dangerous or late as the popular perception. Because of the myriad of offers and fares, it's advisable to ring first (National Rail Enquiries: 0845 7484950). Coach travel ( is longer, but offers better value. Coaches stop at Victoria Street, while trains are generally bound for Euston, Kings Cross, Liverpool Street or Paddington. Tube connections are fairly simple.

The Oval is served by the tube station of the same name. A single from central London costs #1.90. From Westminster, take the District Line to Embankment, then the Northern Line to the Oval. The station is only 200 metres from the ground. Vauxhall station is a longer walk.


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